September 30, 2023

Senior Bowl 2023 – Day One Practice Recap

 

Senior Bowl – Photo Credits – Wes Pruett/ 4SSM

All eyes in the NFL are on Mobile, Alabama, and Reese’s Senior Bowl. This is the 75th edition of the game and it is once again flooded with talent. This week is the official start of the NFL Draft process, and it closes out the college football season. This game has a proven track record of players drafted and when the draft from April 27th – 29th is completed you will see many from this season’s roster. This week can be both unique and challenging for many players as it can be a major adjustment to the pro-style of coaches and practice. As in every season, there are three days of practice from the South Alabama campus on Tuesday through Thursday in preparation for the game on Saturday. Both teams took to the field on Tuesday for the first time. We will look at each team’s practice as a whole and the players who had standout days. We will track a few selected players from each team this week and see how their practice and draft stock may change.  

National Team  

In the weeks’ practices, we will see players improve from day to day. With today being the opening practice of the week there will be many learning curves and room to make improvements. It was a beautiful day for football in Mobile and there were some nice performances to go with it. To start the day was the National Team, who practiced from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, and they brought the energy. The National team was the only team to have music playing during the practice and it brought a different energy. Let us look at who took this extra energy and used it to their advantage. While both teams are loaded with the best players in the nation, we feel that this team has the most to prove. From undersized quarterbacks to unknown players and more. Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator, and head coach of the National Team, talked in postgame with the team. He talked about getting better each day and how he appreciated the effort.  

Keion White – DL – Georgia Tech 

White was the best player on the field today. This is a bold statement but it’s a fact after watching. He came to Georgia Tech in 2021 after two seasons with Old Dominion. As a freshman, White played the tight end position before switching to defensive end in 2019. In that season, White had 62 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one interception in his twelve games played. In his two seasons with Georgia Tech White has totaled 58 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 14.5 tackles for loss in his 16 games played. White came into this week as a top prospect and the first day of practice showed why. It will be interesting to see how White continues to ascend draft boards.  

Puka Nacua – Wide Receiver – BYU 

Nacua comes to Mobile after an interesting college career at BYU. One word that comes to mind with him is healthy. When healthy Nacua is one of the more impactful wide receivers in the nation. After starting his career, at Washington in 2019 and 2020, Nacua came to Provo and instantly became a utilized weapon. In 2021, NACUA had 43 receptions for 805 yards and six touchdowns. He would also rush 14 times for 148 yards in his twelve games played. This season he would appear in nine games and finish with 48 catches for 625 yards for five touchdowns. Today, he would look and practice healthily and his skills were evident. Running routes with ease and making defenders look lost is what today was for the former BYU Cougar. His journey this week will be a fun one to track.  

Jake Haener – QB – Fresno State 

We spoke earlier about the quarterback position for this team. While there are no “Top Guys” on the National Team there is plenty of talent.  Leading this team is a player that some may not even know is. Jake Haener comes to Mobile this week from Fresno State. After one season in Washington, Haener came to Fresno, and he has made the most of the opportunity. While at Fresno State. Heaner went 731/1072 for 9,013 yards, 67 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. He threw the ball with precision today and held his own under the pressure of day one practice. His, along with many others in this position, the journey will be one that will be talked about all week. Can he be the one in 2023 to make the climb?  

American Team    

The American Team would take the field in the afternoon session of practice. While this team has names in positions such as quarterback, running back, and others, today was a challenge for some. We saw talent shine in some positions and some players solidify themselves in front of the NFL coaches and staff in the crowd. As we know, this week is about consistency, and we saw players who did this today. We will look at some players we are tracking to see if they did. Who had a good first day from the American team in Mobile? In the post-practice meeting with the team Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator, and head coach of the American team, Luke Getsy talked about their keys to practice and whether they accomplished them. He also spoke about getting better each day in Mobile and stacking good days together. The most important thing Getsy stressed moving forward was to have fun playing football. The American team did not have music playing and it seemed to be missing that energy.  

Eric Gray – Running Back – Oklahoma  

After being highly touted out of high school, the former Mr. Football in Tennessee has come to Mobile. The former Vol and Oklahoma Sooner is looking to impress in a crowded position room. With his first 1,000 plus yards rushing in 2022 {1,366 yards} Gray has the confidence to increase his draft stock. After his practice today he showed he has burst through the line, had great hands out of the backfield, and improved route running abilities. Gray will need to have strong showings for his stock to rise. His climb to this point hasn’t been one of ease. Gray has shown himself to be able to overcome the odds thus far in his career. A good week in Mobile and Gray will prove yet again he will overcome and be drafted into the NFL.  

Andrei Iosivas – Wide Receiver – Princeton 

It’s not often you see a Princeton Tiger drafted into the NFL. In fact, there have only been 17 drafted in history. The Senior from Hawaii comes to Mobile with hopes to be the first Tiger drafted since 2016. Statistically, Iosivas has the numbers to be there as he finished the 2022 season with 66 catches for 943 yards and seven touchdowns. These were all career-high numbers in his three seasons at Princeton. Andrei comes into this week as a prospect that many have eyes on. He is one that has all the tools to be effective at the next level. His first practice today showed these skills plus more. Today he showed a burst off the line and the ability to leave defenders behind. He will be one to watch this week and how he is used by this staff.  

Tyson Bagent – Quarterback – Shephard University [ D2}  

In what is a packed and talented quarterback there is one that stood out to us today. He is one that practically no one had ever heard of. Tyson Bagent comes to Mobile from Shephard University, a division two program from Shepherdstown, Virginia. The Rams have quite a talented signal caller in Bagent. In his career, Bagent is 1400/2040 for 17, 034 yards, 159 touchdowns, and 48 interceptions in his 53 games played. Bagent averaged 321 yards per game in his career. He would have a strong performance on day one. He showed he has the arm strength to make all the throws at the next level. He had good footwork today and has an incredibly deceptive action game. His ability to throw on the run is something we want to see more of this week. Of all the prospects in this position, this one is the most intriguing. Can Bagent become the first division two player drafted since 2009? Based on his start today, he has a shot!  

What Is Next?

This week is always interesting to see how players will progress or regress as the game day comes. With the normal this time of year there will be weather in the area starting tomorrow through Thursday. In the event, there are storms they will relocate the practices to the indoor facilities on the South Alabama campus. Coaches will begin to implement more plays and add more to the player’s responsibilities as of tomorrow’s practice. We will also see the intensity ramped up in practice.  We will have continues coverage all week on the events and game day.



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